The Ghost In The Machine

Coincidences Chapter One

Tony Crisp

The following is a portion of the first chapter

“We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

When a striking coincidence occurs to you, it is more than a chance event. It is a breakthrough of something that science is only on the edge of understanding. It is an emergence into your life of a power that transcends the common concept of time and space. It is the working of something that can transform your love, your work, your creativity, and your way of viewing life.

Whether we call it coincidence, chance, or synchronicity, things happen to us that are inexplicable. How did you meet your partner, or the people who are important in your life for instance? Why is it that when you are exploring an idea or searching for help, a book almost leaps off the shelf of a shop or library? Then, when examining the book, you find it is the very friend or instructor you need. Where did your most creative acts emerge from? Almost certainly they were surrounded by synchronistic events. All these aspects of your life have introduced you to coincidences, but perhaps you haven’t looked deep into the face of this wonderful colleague.

A coincidence is not simply meeting an old friend in a very unusual setting, or discovering you have the same birth date and name as someone you accidentally meet at a party. A coincidence can be something we feel within us, that then links with an outward event. Therefore synchronicity can also arise through a dream, an intuition or a near death experience. The mystery of such experiences touches us in every department of our life.

At the end of World War II when I was nine years of age, my parents moved from the countryside back to London. My paternal grandfather owned a greengrocery shop in a small street called Woburn Walk. This was in a quiet side turning behind St Pancras Church. My grandfather had moved from Italy to London with his wife Rafaela in the early part of the century. At the end of the war he wanted to return to Italy to visit relatives. Rafaela had died several years previously, so he went alone. His parting seemed easy. My father worked in the shop caring for the business. All seemed well until about two weeks after my grandfather had departed. On that day I remember clearly the usual sounds of the early morning activity being different. I heard my father crying and my mother trying to comfort him. Later I learned that my father had dreamt my grandfather was dead. In the dream my father saw two of his brothers taking a plane to Italy to collect and bring back my grandfather’s body. Later in the day a telegram arrived telling us that my grandfather had in fact died in his sleep that night.

At the age of nine this event did not seem strange. Both my parents appeared to accept the incident without ever questioning or exploring it in conversation. However, the incident stands out in my memory like a large red cherry placed among many white petals.

Even as very young children we have a well developed view of what is real and what is imaginary. In tests where pre-school children were shown a ball rolled down a tube, the child expected the ball to emerge from the other end of the tube. When it didn’t the child walked or crawled to look behind the tube in an attempt to understand what had happened.

My father’s dream has a similar effect. There is no external reason for the dream to occur. He had received no news from his father and no information to suggest his father was ill. Even if he had been worrying about his father why had he dreamt his father was dead? Two of his brothers did in fact take a plane to Italy to arrange for my grandfather’s body to be flown back and buried in England. Why was my father’s dream so detailed? How did he know the facts? For, like the trick that conjured the ball away from the child’s sight as it rolled down the tube, some hidden mechanism must have been behind my father’s dream to produce the facts?

There are several ways of looking at such a coincidence. One is to believe that if we have enough marbles with two different patterns on, one set with a circle and another set with a cross, mixing them together randomly will at times cause strange patterns to appear. In some cases a circle of crosses will appear. In other cases different recognisable geometric patterns will arise. Considering the billions of human beings in the world, and the their incredible variety of activities, strange coincidences must arise. But in such cases one would not expect meaning to arise as a part of the coincidence. My father’s dream contained very accurate details. A person’s future would not be revealed in clear images by the pattern in mixed marbles. Such random patterns would not bring a flood of realisation or a transcendent insight as some coincidences do. They would not clearly synchronise an inner realisation with an exterior event. It is this synchronicity between inner and outer events that marks the divide between random coincidence and the sort of event my father experienced and I and my mother witnessed.

Another feature in the occurrence of coincidences is that they do not have to be an act of faith. There is no requirement for a particular belief system. Coincidences occur to the most critical cynic and materialist, as well as to those with devout beliefs in a supernatural life. If there is a hidden mechanism behind the event, it is certainly not firmly linked with beliefs or attitudes.

However, our response to hearing a powerful coincidence described will be very personal. Your own reaction to reading about my father’s dream may fall within certain categories. You may have accepted it easily without questioning how it could happen. You may have accepted it with some thoughts about the principles producing it. You may have rejected it from beliefs that from the knowledge we have about the human mind and the world, such an event could not happen. You may even have the view that such experiences are works of the devil. Whatever your response, there may be more to learn about how, and perhaps even why, coincidences occur.

Caring – A Key to the Inexplicable

If we look at a few more coincidences we will have more material from which to extract understanding.

In 1978 Jaime Castell, a Spanish hotel executive, had a warning dream. In that year Jaime’s wife had become pregnant, and the dream happened three months before the baby was due. In the dream a bodiless voice told Jaime he would die before the baby was born. Although he was healthy, this impressed Jaime enough for him to take out an insurance policy against his death.

Not long after this, while driving on a motorway at 80 kph, Jaime was killed. A car travelling in the opposite direction at 160 kph hit the central barrier out of control and bounced on top of Jaime’s car, killing both drivers instantly. The insurance payment was given without any suspicion. As a representative of the company said, ‘this accident rules out suspicion … a second either way and he would have escaped’.(1)

Jaime wanted to care for his wife and future child even when faced by death. Because of the circumstances of the accident, there is no possibility of it being a self-fulfilling prophecy. I say this because it is a common criticism aimed at cases of premonition. Could Jaime’s desire to care for his wife be a factor in producing his dream? It was certainly a factor in the way he responded to the knowledge the dream gave him and the synchronous event that followed. As with my father’s experience of synchronicity, Jaime found clear meaning in his dream.

A synchronous event of a different nature, and one that has been widely mentioned involves two famous people. One was the film star Anthony Hopkins, and the other the novelist George Feifer. While in London Feifer loaned the proof copy of his novel The Girl from Petrovka to a friend. The copy was precious as it contained hours of work in correcting the book for an American edition. Within a week the friend told Feifer he had lost the manuscript. It had disappeared from the back of his car. Long searches and even the offer of a reward failed to locate the book.

(1) Reported in Coincidences by Ken Anderson. Published by Blandford, UK, 1991. ISBN: 0-7137- 2523 0

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